Donald has always liked to portrait himself as a wily, unconventional, self-made, hugely successful billionaire who is a highly intelligent, master negotiator. I don’t need to tell you that, he’s been saying it himself for decades: “We need a PRESIDENT with strength, stamina, heart and incredible deal making skill if our country is ever going to be able to prosper again!” he tweeted in 2015 as he launched his presidential bid.
His legion of disgruntled blue collar Republican supporters certainly bought into the myth of Trump the great dealmaker and propelled him into the Oval Office to build the wall and drain the Washington swamp. It’s hardly disputed that Trump is an epic showman and his ability to win over a crowd at stadiums and conventions is truly exceptional. His call to ‘Build the Wall’ may be cartoonish and great at rallies – up there with ‘Lock Her Up’ – but in recent weeks, his attitude and obvious lack of skills when it comes to negotiating, have become more evident, and worrying, when it comes to major global events.
Let’s look at China first: Trump has threatened tariffs on another $300bn worth of Chinese goods. This may be his way of hitting back at Beijing, but it’s now starting to be felt back home. A Reuters report on the big losers as a result of the US-China trade war found that everything from computer chips to cars have been hit. Apple cut its Q1 sales forecast due to slower Chinese iPhone sales, Intel cut revenue projections and General Motors and Ford said they’d be hit with costs of nearly a $1bn each. In a global market, how long before the impact is felt on our side of the world? After all, Dubai needs its iPhones, its cars and its computer chips, too.
Now to Iran: As Ramadan started this year, Trump sent his “warmest greetings” to all Muslims observing the holy month, while a few hours later, the White House announced it was sending a US warship to the Gulf to “send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force”.
If anyone was ever in doubt as to Trump’s lack of dealmaking skills, they only need to look at his leaked tax returns published by The New York Times this month
When asked what he would do if tensions with Iran escalated further, the great diplomat and dealmaker responded: “I’m hearing little stories about Iran… If they do anything, they will suffer greatly” - very reassuring from the man with his finger on the nuclear codes. When asked what he’d do if Iran attacked oil tankers in the Mediterranean Sea: “It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens, I can tell you that… They’re not going to be happy.”
With official reports confirming that Saudi oil tankers were attacked off the coast of the UAE, it’s worrying that it’s all down to Trump’s latest whim and tweet as to what happens next. If anyone was ever in doubt as to Trump’s lack of dealmaking skills, they only need to look at his leaked tax returns published by The New York Times this month. The documents discovered that Trump’s businesses reported losses of $1.17bn between 1985 and 1994; no wonder he has always refused to release his tax details. But, the irony is that these losses were happening at a the exact time he published his 1987 bestseller Trump: The Art of the Deal, a book he himself regularly describes as the No. 1 selling business book of all time (it’s not - while it spent 51 weeks on The New York Times’ bestseller list and sold over a million copies, that title goes to How to Win Friends & Influence People, which has sold around 15 million since the 1930s. But, it’s no great shock to anyone that Trump would be loose with the truth).
“I never get too attached to one deal or one approach.... I always come up with at least a half dozen approaches to making it (a deal) work, because anything can happen, even to the best-laid plans,” it was said in his book.
Let’s hope that something else does come along to distract him from what is happening in the Middle East, as even Tony Schwartz, the reporter and ghost writer of The Art of the Deal, is no longer convinced. This month, Schwartz came out and claimed that Trump actually wrote none of the book that made him a star and it is so inaccurate, especially in light of his tax returns, that the book should now be categorised as a work of fiction. The real issue now, though, is the reality Trump is creating for us.
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